Category: Patron Saint

Gender Bender

71. St. Francis de Sales

We come to thee, O happy Saint

To claim thy care and love,

To beg thy guidance through this life,

To endless bliss above.

Chorus

Oh, pray for us, St. Francis,

For dangers hover near;

Oh pray for us, St. Francis,

To conquer every fear.

While in the rosy bloom of youth,

To God thy soul was given,

And true, through life, thy spotless soul

‘Mid suffering soared to heaven.

Thy purity has won for thee

A crown of fadeless light;

Oh, may its beauty shine on us

And cheer the gloom of night.

              The verses above are from a hymnal printed for SFDS by the Catholic Standard in 1926, under the direction of Rev. Charles McGinley who was the Director of the women’s BVM Sodality organization at the time.

              The words to the hymn are somewhat peculiar for our Patron Saint – particularly the second verse, about “the rosy bloom of youth” and the suffering of a spotless soul. Saint Francis de Sales wasn’t tortured or martyred; he became the Bishop of Geneva in 1602 and died peacefully of a heart ailment at what was then a respectable age of 55. It seems odd that the hymn doesn’t reference his patient efforts to keep the faith alive during the Protestant Reformation; his advice on the Devout Life or his other inspirational writings (“We shall steer safely through every storm, so long as our heart is right, our intention fervent, our courage steadfast, and our trust fixed on God. If at times we are somewhat stunned by the tempest, never fear. Let us take breath, and go on afresh“); or his designation as patron saint of journalists and the deaf (a role Pope Francis is now highlighting).

              Curiously, an internet search finds the same song used to honor Saint Charles Borromeo in Monterrey, CA in 1914: “…then all the people form a long procession. In the center is carried the statue of San Carlos, and, while the choir sings the Hymn to San Carlos, they march slowly around the church… ‘We come to thee, O happy Saint/ To claim thy care and love,/ To beg thy guidance through this life,/To endless bliss above…’” Here, too, the words don’t fit the life of that 16th century Bishop known for founding seminaries.

              Hymnary.org, which tracks different versions of hymns printed over time, provides an answer. Its first recorded instance of the verses, is as a Hymn to St. Agatha, “dedicated to St. Agatha’s Sodality by a member” in 1872 and popular from 1872 to 1935. Ah, now it all fits! St. Agatha made a vow of virginity in rosy youth; kept her purity, through the suffering of torture and imprisonment; and soared to heaven to claim a martyr’s crown, around the year 251 AD.

              So why was the hymn repurposed? Since saintly feast days fall once a year, usually on a weekday, there hasn’t been much call for special songs – surprisingly, even for use in the annual Forty Hours or for institutions named for saints. The International Commission on English in the Liturgy, now working on a new English language breviary, notes that music has existed for a number of saints but “Many of the nearly 300 Latin hymns, some dating back to the early centuries of the Church, have never had an official English translation…” If a need arose for an anthem, churches improvised. The US Conference of Catholic Bishops has now approved the Green Book of the hymns of the Proper of Saints, so more official songs could eventually be available in English, but here’s a challenge and an opportunity for our own parish tribute to our patron St. Francis de Sales!

Saint Francis de Sales: Saintly Geography

St. Francis de Sales

Our patron Saint Francis de Sales was born in Savoy (France) in 1567. Appointed Bishop of Geneva (Switzerland) in 1602, he worked with gentle firmness to preserve the Catholic faith through the upheavals of the Protestant Reformation. He was an inspirational preacher; a powerful writer; a friend of the poor; and a saint who, like his model, Saint Francis of Assisi, promoted a simple and devout life. Today he is known as the patron saint of journalists and the deaf, and his worldwide footprint is surprisingly broad!

An informal survey has so far identified 120 churches and cathedrals named for St. Francis de Sales in India, Africa, South and Central America, Canada, Britain, Europe, and the South Pacific; and in 32 U.S. states plus Washington DC and Puerto Rico! Many educational institutions have also been named for the saint, who is one of the Doctors of the church. His worldwide religious orders include the Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary (Visitation Sisters), cofounded by St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane Frances Chantal; as well as several 19th century orders including The Missionaries of St. Francis de Sales, the Salesians of Don Bosco (officially known as the Society of St. Francis de Sales), The Oblate Sisters of St. Francis de Sales, and the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales.

A few of the cities and towns named to honor him include:

The city of St. Francis, Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, formed around Saint Francis de Sales Seminary when it was established in 1845.

San Francisco de Sales, Guatemala, is perched on the edge of the active Pacaya volcano.

Saint-François-de-Sales, Quebec in Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean region, Canada, with its blueberry field and municipal campsite, is considered an “oasis of tranquility.

São Francisco de Sales, Minas Gerais, Brasil, was the site of a purported alien abduction in 1957

St. François Atoll in the Seychelles archipelago (Indian Ocean off East Africa) is an island nature refuge known for shipwrecks and a small, short-lived unsuccessful coconut harvesting business.

Described as a “charming little mountain village,” the town of Saint-François-de-Sales in the department of Savoie of the French region Rhône-Alpes (the region where St. Francis de Sales was born) was once known for farming; today it is focused on tourism and mountain sports such as cross-country skiing and hiking.

Our patron saint’s fame has spread well beyond geography and religion. Some of his odder associations include the St. Francis de Sales Cricket Club in Victoria, Australia; St. Francis de Sales Broadcast Center radio station in Batangas City, Philippines; and Historic St Francis de Sales Church Inn & Event Venue in Hatch, NM, home of an annual chili festival. He even has a dental office, Dental San Francisco de Sales, near Lima, Peru!

Dental San Francisco de Sales

Over the centuries, many people have been named after the saint, including several children in our historic parish record books. A Mexican-Italian Visitation Sister, Sister Saint Francis de Sales Bortoni, emigrated to the United States in 1926. A Philadelphia-born Hollywood actor named Francis de Sales appeared in a surprising number of old 1950s-1970s movies and TV shows. And parishioner Mary Brewster wrote a few months ago that “an Inquirer article about a posthumous pardon in Virginia caught my eye because it highlighted capital punishment and racial injustice. When I read the story, I noticed Francis de Sales Grayson was one of the men referred to as the Martinsville Seven. I wondered about Mr. Grayson’s connection to the Black Catholic community in Richmond and thought about how the de Sales name connects us all.” Around the world and back, and through history.

Francis de Sales Grayson

Letters Under the Door

annemasse tek editSaint Francis de Sales is famous for delivering pamphlets under people’s doors in the 1590s – an early form of journalism — but the writings themselves are rarely referenced. Do we know anything about them?

Charles Auguste de Sales, nephew of the Saint (and later, a Bishop) wrote that in 1658, when he returned to his chateau of La Thuille after an absence of fourteen years, he discovered a manuscript “contained with other papers in a plain deal box which for greater security during those disturbed times had been cemented into the thick wall of an archive-chamber.” The manuscript was written “in the hand of the venerable servant of God and our predecessor, Francis de Sales, in which are treated many points of theology which are in controversy between Catholic doctors and the heretics…

These appear to have been the famous under-door-delivered writings of St. Francis de Sales – the reason he would later be declared “Patron Saint of Journalists!” The translator’s preface to the 1899 edition of the collected pieces, compiled as The Catholic Controversy, notes “The original was written on fugitive separate sheets, which were copied and distributed week by week, sometimes being placarded in the streets and squares. The Saint did not consider them of sufficient importance to be mentioned in the list of his works contained in the Preface to the Love of God, but they were carefully written, and he preserved a copy more or less complete which bears marks of being revised by him later.”  

What was in the pamphlets? Saint Francis de Sales wrote the first one to explain his plan for evangelization: since protestants who lived near Thonon in the French Chablais were afraid to come and listen to him, he would put his words in writing for them. This would allow more people to access his information in the quiet of their own homes. It would also give people something they could take to their church minister, if they wished, to get his opinion. “Writing can be better handled; it gives more leisure for consideration than the voice does; it can be pondered more profoundly.” And “it will be seen that…I write in everybody’s sight, and under the censorship of superiors, being assured that, while people will find herein plenty of ignorance, they will not find, God helping, any irreligion or any opposition to the doctrines of the Roman Church.

Over the course of many installments, de Sales outlined important differences between Calvinist protestants and Catholics on ideas of faith and free will. John Calvin had written that “All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation.” His followers believed that everyone was drawn towards evil, but some were pre-selected by God to be saved in spite of themselves. The identities of those created for the “Secret Church” of the Saved, known only to God, would only be revealed on Judgement Day. Catholics, on the other hand, believed humans had free will to choose good or evil, and their individual actions and choices would determine their place in the afterlife. Earthly success was no measure of special favor. De Sales even acknowledged that “there are many…in the Militant Church whose end will be perdition...” (who will go to Hell) because of their poor choices. These include many “bishops and prelates who, after having been lawfully placed in this office and dignity, have fallen from their first grace and have died heretics...” The rule of faith was in the Bible, which all agreed was Holy Writ, but de Sales observed that its words were interpreted differently by different people: “heresy is in the understanding, not in the Scripture, and the fault is in the meaning, not in the words.” He noted that protestant leaders reconfigured the Bible to leave out portions that didn’t suit them: “Calvin finds that the Apocalypse is to be received, Luther denies it; the same with the Epistle of S. James…Either the one or the other is ill formed…” The “true” church, according to de Sales, is inclusive.

His arguments convinced many. Cardinal Zacchetti, in introducing the cause of Beatification, noted that de Sales “recalled so great a multitude of wandering souls to the Church that he happily raised up and restored first Thonon and then the other parishes.” Today, other works of St, Francis de Sales, such as the Introduction to the Devout Life, are much better known, but his long-ago writings to people in Thonon provide an interesting early example of information dissemination, while offering perspective on some deep roots of differences among those groups that share the name of “Christians.’’

 

Particles of Truth

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A widely-circulated online bio of our patron saint Francis de Sales as a “patient man” — picked up over the past few years by organizations and churches around the world — offers a tale that differs surprisingly from the accounts of his life that seem to have inspired it. This muddiness of facts is especially troubling for the Patron Saint of Journalists!

Many of the picturesque details of the saint’s early life in the anonymous online bio seem to have been drawn from  a 1909 book St. Francis de Sales: A Biography of the Gentle Saint by Louise Stacpoole-Kenny, but the online information has been oddly summarized and re-interpreted out of  context.

As an example, one paragraph in the online version addresses why it took so long for Francis to enter the priesthood, suggesting he needed to experience other things first, and “was wise to wait, for he wasn’t a natural pastor. His biggest concern on being ordained was that he had to have his lovely curly gold hair cut off. And his preaching left the listeners thinking he was making fun of him. Others reported to the bishop that this noble-turned- priest was conceited and controlling.”

The Stacpoole-Kenny book does state that when, in 1578, Francis “took the tonsure” – the monastic haircut that marked his interest in Holy Orders — “indeed, it cost him bitter pangs to part with his beautiful golden curls…” The online re-telling of the incident omits the important information that this was an event of his childhood: Stacpoole-Kenny notes that “in actual years Francis was only just eleven” when he chose to undertake this sign of spiritual commitment, just before he left home for school, with many years of study and career choice still ahead! And his father still hoped he would become a lawyer and assume his family’s noble title.

The comment about Francis’ poor public speaking is equally odd, since Francis is generally known for his eloquence. An early account by the Abbe de Marsollier does mention that Francis experienced stage fright before giving his first sermon, when he saw that “a numerous crowd were eagerly awaiting him,” but he gathered himself together and “electrified his audience by the strength and fervour of his language and the grace and clearness of his ideas. Many shed tears…” It was his father — having finally, reluctantly, accepted his son’s career choice – who claimed to be unimpressed with his son’s preaching, feeling that “his style was far too simple and unaffected…”

The online article is accurate in observing that Francis’ patience carried him through hard times, as he tried to convert protestants back to Catholicism on the French-Swiss border. On this, Stacpoole-Kenny reports in less dramatic prose that his chosen technique was to “take things quietly, to progress slowly but steadily….” and “it was by means of the most gentle persuasion that he endeavoured to convert the gloomy and stubborn Calvinists. The pamphlets which he wrote during his mission and caused to be distributed among the people breathe a spirit of sweetness and gentleness, at the same time clearly and decidedly expounding the truths of the Catholic Religion. The heretics, though they would not come to listen to his sermons, read these documents through curiosity; but many found them so convincing that they desired to learn more of a doctrine that appealed, not only to their reason, but to their hearts.” The success of this pamphlet campaign was what caused de Sales to later be named “Patron Saint of Journalists.

Was the online article deliberately misleading? Details were selected and events were exaggerated and re-framed to build a dramatic story, possibly intended to energize a particular audience at a particular time. It is a colourful tale, but at the same time, it does a disservice to the real saint, who wrote: “Let us be as precise and balanced as possible in our words” and “When you speak of your neighbour, look upon your tongue as a sharp razor in the surgeon’s hand, about to cut nerves and tendons; it should be used so carefully, as to insure that no particle more or less than the truth be said.” Truth matters.

Prayer for Journalists

Our church is named for Saint Francis de Sales, the Patron Saint of Journalists (1567-1622), who wrote:

We shall steer safely through every storm, so long as our heart is right, our intention fervent, our courage steadfast, and our trust fixed on God. If at times we are somewhat stunned by the tempest, never fear. Let us take breath, and go on afresh.

Let us be as precise and balanced as possible in our words.”

When you speak of your neighbour, look upon your tongue as a sharp razor in the surgeon’s hand, about to cut nerves and tendons; it should be used so carefully, as to insure that no particle more or less than the truth be said.

Above all, avoid false accusations and the distortion of truth regarding your neighbor.

“Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset.”

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St. Francis de Sales (1940 Parish Silver Jubilee Anniversary Book).

 

A modern Prayer for Journalists is shown on a plaque in St. Bride’s Episcopal Church in London, which ministers to the Fleet Street press:

Almighty God,
Strengthen and direct, we pray, the will of all whose work it is to write what many read,
and to speak where many listen. May we be bold to confront evil and injustice: understanding and compassionate of human weakness; rejecting alike the half-truth which deceives, and the slanted word which corrupts.

May the power which is ours, for good or ill, always be used with honesty and courage,
with respect and integrity, so that when all here has been written, said and done, we may, unashamed, meet Thee face to face,
Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord.
Amen.

On World Communications Day, May 24, 2020, Pope Francis entreated: “May this event encourage us to tell and share constructive stories that help us to understand that we are all part of a story that is larger than ourselves, and can look forward to the future with hope if we truly care for one another as brothers and sisters.”

The Passing of Saint Francis de Sales

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The long stained-glass window on the 47th Street side of our church, showing the final moments of our patron St. Francis de Sales (by Nicola D’Ascenzo in 1911), features a detail of a small green plant on the mantel as a reminder of his connection to God through the natural world.

An 1871 biography notes that after years of defending the Faith, Francis, Bishop of Geneva, “began to feel worn and weary” at age 55 (old in the 1600s), and dreamed of retiring “to a quiet spot on the Lake of Annecy,”  (Duchy of Savoy; part of France today) to spend his final years writing books, close to nature. Francis was in poor health: “his legs swelled painfully, so that he could scarcely walk, and they were also covered with sores;” and his chest pains were “distressing.

In May 1622, Pope Gregory XV, nonetheless, ordered him to travel to Turin (Savoy then; Italy today) to settle a religious dispute. There, after Francis fainted in the church, he stayed on to recover, returning to Annecy in August, after he heard that crops at home had failed, and people were suffering. Francis decided “I will sell my mitre and crosier (hat and staff), and my garments themselves, to relieve my poor people.” He got rid of everything he could – including a valuable diamond ring he had just received from the princess in Turin. Upon hearing this, some of his flock bought it back for him, then he sold it again: “This happened several times, till it became a popular saying that it was the beggars’ ring rather than the Bishop’s.”

Francis made one final journey that November. The Duke of Savoy planned to meet French King Louis XIII at Avignon and accompany him on a royal tour. The Duke’s daughter-in-law, the Princess of Piedmont, wanted to bring the Bishop, who was her Grand Almoner (the most important member of the Church in the royal court), as part of her entourage. Unable to refuse, Bishop Francis wearily acknowledged “we must go where God calls us, as long as we can move at all…” Hoping to petition the King for aid for his diocese, he prepared to travel, knowing he probably would not return.

The plant shown in our window signals the humble surroundings at his final stop in Lyon, where “the Bishop avoided all Court entertainments and gatherings, save such as were a part of his duty…and refused all invitations…preferring to occupy a little apartment in the gardener’s house belonging to the Visitation Convent…The Sisters were distressed at their Founder being so unsuitably lodged,” but Francis insisted that he preferred the simple, natural setting.

Though frail, he was still busy: “Madame de Chantal (with whom he had co-founded the Visitation Order in 1601), who had not seen him for more than three years…came to Lyons to see her beloved Spiritual Father again…Persons of every class and age poured in upon him to gather up precious words of instruction and guidance, and the gardener’s little cottage was besieged with visitors from the town and from the members of both Courts…”

A few days after Francis celebrated Christmas Midnight Mass for the Visitation Sisters in Lyon, and the Superior remarked that the sermon was so inspired that “I could have fancied that I saw the Angel Gabriel standing beside you....,” Francis had a seizure and was carried to his bed in the gardener’s house. He received medical treatments of the day: “blisters applied to the head, hot irons, and even cauterizations to the spine...” but nothing helped, and the priests administered Last Rites.

Madame de Chantal was at the convent in Grenoble, saying her prayers, “when she distinctly heard a voice say He is no more.’” She did not understand until later what this meant: it was at that moment, back in Lyon, at about eight in the evening on the Feast of the Holy Innocents (Dec. 28), that Saint Francis de Sales died. He was buried, as was his desire, at the Church of the Visitation in Annecy on January 24.

 

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Saint Francis de Sales

The Feast Day of Our Patron SAINT FRANCIS DE SALES is January 24.

Born in 1567, Francis de Sales grew up to become an inspirational preacher; a powerful writer; a friend of the poor; and a saint who, like his model, Saint Francis of Assisi, promoted a simple and devout life. Some of his story was told by stained glass artist Nicola D’Ascenzo in the lower half of our long windows. On the St. Joseph side of the church, starting at the left, young Francis learns the catechism from his mother in Savoy (part of France today). He receives his First Holy Communion in the middle window, then his father agrees to let him take Holy Orders in 1593. Across the aisle, on the Saint Mary side of the church, Saint Francis de Sales is a priest, preaching a mission at Annemasse in 1597. In the middle window he has become a bishop, co-founding the order of the Visitation, an order of nuns, with St. Jane Chantal in 1610. The right-hand window depicts his deathbed in 1622. What happened in the spaces between the windows?  Francis was appointed Bishop of Geneva in 1602, but resided in nearby Annecy, Savoy, because Geneva was under Protestant control. There, he worked with gentle firmness to keep the Catholic faith alive in his diocese. He is known for sliding written sermons under the doors of the faithful who could not, by law, attend mass — which is how he became The Patron Saint of Journalists. He is also patron saint of the deaf, based on a miracle he performed.

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Doctors in the House

 

In 1908, when architect Henry Dagit wrote about the church he was starting to build at 47th and Springfield, he mentioned that its dome would be supported inside on four Columns topped with “marble mosaic emblems of the four Evangelists…and under them in sculptured niches will be statues of the four Doctors of the Church.

The statues were absent from descriptions of the finished interior in 1911, but they crept back into church descriptions written in 1928 and 1938, before vanishing again in 1940.

Who were the “Doctors of the Church” and why did they come and go?

Wikipedia defines the term as “a title given by the Catholic Church to saints recognized as having made significant contribution to theology or doctrine through their research, study, or writing.” A document from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) notes that “The title was first given in the Middle Ages, and originally, there were four great Doctors of the Church: St. Ambrose, 4th century bishop of Milan, St. Augustine, 5th century bishop of Hippo, St. Gregory the Great, who was pope at the start of the 7th century, and St. Jerome, the 5th century biblical scholar and translator.”  The Oxford Dictionary of Christian Art identifies these as the four Latin Doctors and also lists four important Greek Doctors: St. Basil, St. Gregory Nazianzen, St. John Chrysostum, and St. Athanasius, who appear more often in mosaic artwork. Which doctors would have been most suited to our mosaic-filled Byzantine-styled church? Maybe that was the problem!

So many doctors! So many choices! And the list kept growing. The 2015 USCCB document notes that “Over the years the church has added about 30 (now 36) additional saints with the title ‘Doctor of the Church’… Since 1970….women have also been declared ‘Doctors of the Church’: St. Teresa of Avila; St. Catherine of Siena; St. Thérèse of Lisieux…, and St. Hildegard of Bingen.”

DSCN6373 (2)  DSCN6373 (3)In the end, the references to the Doctors in our church in 1928 and 1938 are likely mistakes from hastily recopying outdated text: the interior niches do not exist and we have no evidence that the statues were ever commissioned (though there are two full and two partial never-used niches on the 47th Street exterior!). We do have at least three Doctors “in the house,” though: our own patron Saint Francis de Sales was declared a Doctor in 1877. Saint Anthony of Padua (statue behind the mesh on the St. Joseph side of the church), became a Doctor in 1946; and St. Thérèse of Lisieux (statue in the former confessional by the parking lot door) was named in 1998 – both receiving the title long after our church was built. Our Saint Anthony statue – the patron of lost things — arrived in 1916 as a gift from Mrs. Elizabeth Lippe, who also bequeathed our bells (ironically, his correct pedestal is under St. Anne). St. Therese arrived near the time of her canonization in 1925 and was accompanied by a relic, venerated regularly through 1937.

In addition, parish records indicate that our church, located near several universities and medical centers, has always had a few medical doctors, PhDs, and probably some honorary titles among its congregation!

The Cross at Annemasse

annemasse tek editWhy did stained glass artisan Nicola D’Ascenzo choose the image of St. Francis de Sales preaching at Annemasse for one of our long windows (nearest the Vatican flag)? Perhaps it spoke to him, because it is a story about how visual symbols — like the artwork he was creating – could inspire people.

In the 1500s — the time of our patron Saint Francis de Sales — the town of Annemasse, Duchy of Savoy (today part of France), was separated from the Republic of Geneva, (Swiss Confederacy) by a narrow river, and the wide gulf of the Protestant Reformation. On the Savoy side of the divide, the Forty Hours Devotion in 1597 aimed to reconnect people through words of gentle encouragement, preached in outdoor sermons by our patron Saint, and in celebrations through town and countryside, centered around visible emblems of faith.

Why is the crucifix shown in D’Ascenzo’s window? A stone cross in Annemasse — which was both a town landmark and a shrine — had been destroyed in religious conflicts. During that Forty Hours Devotion, Francis de Sales led a procession bringing a wooden replacement – invoking the past, restoring the landscape, and providing a symbol to inspire all who would pass along the road. It was a joyous homecoming. Andre Ravier, SJ, noted that “For two days this was the ‘festival’ at Annemasse, a festival above all religious, but the ceremonies, processions, sermons, and so forth were mixed with popular songs and music – even the detonations of arquebuses” (large guns).  And Jill Fehleison observes that “The cross was placed “so that it could be seen from the city of Geneva, fashioning both a symbol of triumph and a challenge” to the Protestant followers of John Calvin, who declared that every word in the Bible was a literal truth that came directly from God, and any other object or image was a distraction.

Centuries later and across an ocean, Christians still have their differences, but immersion in a modern consumer culture filled with secular landmarks, images, and advertising, provides fewer opportunities to connect with faith. Our historic 1911 church dome, Like the monument at the crossroads in Annemasse, is one prominent feature of the local skyline that offers a quiet reminder of God’s enduring presence to anyone who sees it. And if an old adage is true that each “picture is worth a thousand words,” our church is a walk-in encyclopedia of spiritual life and local history.

 

The Patron Saint of Journalists

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St. Francis de Sales (1940 Parish Silver Jubilee Anniversary Book).

Saint Francis de Sales died in France in 1622, but made the news just a few months before our Philadelphia church building was dedicated in 1911, and his message is strangely relevant today.

Our Patron Saint is used to working through turmoil. He was known in his lifetime for perilously hand-distributing his carefully-reasoned writings during the Protestant Reformation in the 1600s, when Catholicism was forbidden in France; and for  his patient efforts to reconcile deeply divided peoples.

His bones were hidden for protection in the 1790s, in the chaos of the French Revolution.

In 1905, when France became a secular state, with religion officially separated from government, its church properties were claimed by the bureaucracy. Our saint was newsworthy when his remains, along with those of St. Jane Chantal, had to be moved from the Church of the Visitation  “to the new convent which the Sisters have been obliged to erect in a different part of the town, the Government requiring the site of their former church and convent for public buildings.”

 The procession in Annecy on August 2, 1911, was an international event, both ceremonial and festive: “Two Cardinals and upwards of fifty Bishops and Archbishops from various countries, even from the far distant Argentine Republic and New Guinea, were present…” with many pilgrims. Celebrations were not without shadows, however: The Tablet International Catholic Weekly reported that

it was scarcely to be hoped that so religious a demonstration could be allowed to pass unnoticed by the Anticlerical party. The Superior of the Visitation and some of the town authorities had received anonymous letters threatening bombs during the procession, if it took place. After prayer and deliberation it was decided that no changes should be made in the programme, all trust being placed in the intercession of the two Saints with God. This confidence was not misplaced ; all went off without the least attempt at molestation.”

News writers at that time were proud to note that St. Francis de Sales was the “Patron Saint of Journalists” – named by Pope Pius IX during a turbulent period in the 1870s — and “the choice…was an apt one, for St. Francis was a man of letters.” In 1923, in an uncertain modern age with increasing  media communication capabilities, Pope Pius XI made an official declaration.

Our early parishioners might have been pleased to have such an enduring, inspirational and newsworthy patron saint. In today’s tumultuous “post-truth” age, our saint’s fortitude and journalistic intercession are more vital than ever!